Thursday, February 1, 2018

Frosting a Cake

Slice of frosted chocolate cake

“There's nothing better than cake but more cake.” Harry Truman

What is your favorite comfort food - the dish that makes your shoulders relax and your mouth water? For me, it's home-baked chocolate cake tucked under a supple layer of fudgy frosting. I've made many versions (including a double-decker, ganache-filled extravaganza topped with flowers sculpted from modeling chocolate for my sister's 40th birthday). When I show up for celebratory gatherings, family and friends assume I'll be toting cake.

The most important thing I’ve learned over the years is that no one expects perfection. In fact, they rarely seem to notice (or care) if a cake tilts or frosting gets smudged. The intoxicating flavor of homemade icing and cake makes them feel loved. Use the tips below to spread that warm fuzzy feeling. 

Basic Tools for Frosting Cakes

  • A serrated knife: Many cakes develop a domed top when baked, which should be removed before they are frosted. A serrated knife, such as a bread knife, is the best tool for the job as it easily slices through cake crumbs. 
  • Offset spatula: Although I try my best to get by with basic kitchen equipment, I believe a small offset is an essential tool for the avid baker. Use it to spread icing, custard, and other fillings on cakes and pastries.
  • Parchment paper or wax paper: You can use either of these products to keep trimmed cakes from spreading crumbs.
How to Frost a Cake

Make sure that the cake has cooled completely or your frosting will melt. 

Place the first layer of cake on a sheet of parchment paper or wax paper. Hold the knife horizontally against the cake where it starts to dome and carefully slice across the top to create a flat surface. Repeat with the other layers.

Slice dome off of layer of cake
Place the first layer of cake on a plate or cake stand with the bottom facing up. This helps to ensure that the top is completely flat.

Place cake on a cake stand or plate bottom side up
Tuck strips of parchment paper or wax paper between the cake and the plate to catch crumbs and bits of frosting.

Tuck parchment paper underneath cake
Gently remove any loose crumbs with your fingers or a pastry brush.

Remove loose crumbs with your fingers or a pastry brush
Place a dollop of frosting on the center of the cake.

Using the offset spatula spread the frosting to cover the top of the cake.

Spread frosting evenly across the top of the cake
Place the second layer of cake on the first layer with the bottom facing up. Again, dust away any loose crumbs. 

Now it’s time to add the “crumb coat” which locks in any wayward crumbs. Place a scoop of frosting on the top layer of the cake.

Spread frosting across the top of the cake
Using the offset spatula, spread the frosting from the center of the cake to the top edges.

Spread icing on sides of cake
Chill the cake for 30 minutes in the refrigerator (or for 15 minutes in the freezer).

Remove the cake from the refrigerator. Place a generous scoop of frosting on top of the cake. Using the offset spatula spread the frosting across the top of the cake starting in the center.

Add layer of frosting over crumb coat

Spread the frosting on the sides of the cake to cover completely.

Spread frosting over crumb coat
Remove the strip of parchment paper or wax paper.  

This article was originally published on 
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